You can only eat them two months a year and the time "x" is about to strike. These are the agretti o friar beard, a delicious vegetable that appears in the end of March to disappear with the month of May. Similar in appearance tochives, with long and threadlike leaves of a bright green, this plant has a slightly acrid taste but tender and juicy texture. Precisely because of these bitter notes it is known above all with the name of agretti. The ways of defining it, however, are as many as the places where consumption has spread. In Romagna, for example, it is popularly called "Lischi" or "liscari“, In Umbria "riscoli”And in the Marche is known as "rospici" or "arescani". The particular form explains, instead, the reason why many, regardless of regional differences, call it friar beard.
From the factory to the kitchen
The botanical name of the plant is Salsola soda and up until the beginning of the last century it was more famous in factories than in the kitchen. With the ashes of this plant, rich in sodium carbonate is potassium, glass was produced, but also soap and other products that needed large quantities of soda. In Venice, for example, they were grown in the lagoon to supply the raw material to the Murano glassworks and surroundings. Over the years the techniques have evolved and it has always been easier to find sodium in other ways, so the agretti have definitely moved from the forges to the pots.
The video recipe deals with the March 2018 issue of La Cucina Italiana
They are good and they do well
Agretti or monk beards are used above all in the Mediterranean diet, especially in Italy. The best way to appreciate its taste is to cook them steamed or boiled and season them with extra virgin olive oil and lemon. Excellent as an appetizer or as a side dish (the combination with salmon is highly recommended), these vegetables are easily available and likewise ductile in the kitchen. With the pasta, inside the omelettes or simply cooked with garlic, tomato and anchovies: there are so many ways to cook these vegetables and enhance their taste. The taste, however, is not the only trump card with a monk's beard. This plant, in fact, it does particularly well: rich in mineral salts and purifying properties represents aexcellent ally in diets. Refreshing and slightly toned, thanks to the abundance of chlorophyll, it helps to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels and is particularly recommended for anemics.
The Shabbat vegetable
In the culinary tradition of the Roman Jewish community, the agretti are very used in this period of the year, so much so as to be one of the main dishes served for it Shabbat, the feast of rest that is observed every Saturday. Although not a typical vegetable of the Kosher tradition, the use of monk's beard in ghetto kitchens dates back to ancient times.